When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015, he moved to New Jersey, grew a beard, and may have accidentally helped elect Donald Trump to office.
That’s according to a wild new study called “Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data,” which looked at the effects of political comedy on the 2016 presidential election, specifically The Daily Show.
According to research by Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J.Wood of Ohio State University, when Stewart left his job at The Daily Show, ratings for the program declined, and as fewer people watched, the researchers found a “strong positive effect on Jon Stewart’s departure and Trump’s vote share.”
By their estimate, “The transition at The Daily Show spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump’s county-level vote share.” The researchers believe the effect was not to due to Stewart’s ability to change voters’ opinions about subjects, but rather his ability to get out the vote and help people realize how important it is to exercise that right. According to the researchers, Stewart’s departure had a noticeable impact on voter mobilization, which they believe “wielded unique influence over voting behavior.”
As the report notes, the effect of Stewart’s departure from the show was “not large,” but every vote mattered in the 2016 election, which was decided by less than 100,000 votes in three states.
While late-night comedy may feel like a laugh, it turns out it can have very real and meaningful effects on presidential elections. Perhaps Jon Stewart will come out of retirement before the 2020 presidential election.